Gale's View from Westminster

July 2021

 

July.  Princes Harry and William meet fleetingly in London to unveil the memorial to Princess Diana, their Mother. `Mr Windsor` then flies back to the States to sign another lucrative `whinge-and-tell` book deal. The postponed Euro 2020 football competition ends for the UK not in triumph but in a sorrowful penalty shoot-out at the Wembley stadium after British football hooligans once again reveal the worst side of English `sportsmanship` by storming the stadium. A sad and inglorious end to an otherwise heroic and epic campaign on the part of Gareth Southgate and his boys. 

L`Affaire Hancock is blamed predictably but probably unjustly for the Tory party`s failure to win the Labour-held Yorkshire seat of Batley and Spen in which the sister of the murdered MP, Jo Cox, was the socialist candidate. The diplomatic stand-off over the Northern Ireland Protocol` contained within the Withdrawal Agreement that Lord Frost negotiated and that Johnson so triumphantly signed in 2019 rumbles on.  To say that Theresa May`s agreement with its `backstop` offered a safer and more secure deal is a heresy at present but history may well prove that to have been the case. The politics of the dog-whistle echoes through Whitehall and Downing Street as illegal cross-channel immigration reaches record levels and the Prime Minister promises, without apparently consulting the constabulary, to introduce chain-gangs to assist in the war against crime. This would be the same Prime Minister that Mr. Dominic Cummings-and-Goings, in yet another series of revelations `prised` all to easily out of him by the BBC`s Laura Kuenssberg, suggested at the time of the referendum was unfit to be in charge of Number Ten. 

Frau Merkel makes her farewell visits to Chequers and Windsor; The 338th ranking schoolgirl Emma Raducann, who has just finished her A-level examinations,  takes the  Wimbledon lawn tennis tournament by storm and oh-so-nearly makes the women`s final while  Djokovic wins his sixth men`s singles title.: Richard Branson and Jeff Bezoz blast off into space and boldly go where no billionaires have been before;  the postponed 2020 Olympics open in Tokyo with 11,300 athletes from 207 countries competing  before an audience of under 1000 people in a stadium and facilities built to accommodate 68,000 people. But games there are and medals are being won. 

The `triple lock` on British domestic state pensions (not to be confused with the `frozen` ones `enjoyed` by many of those ex-pat UK pensioners living overseas) is under threat because of an artificially inflated post-pandemic 8% rise in wages and a row is looming over the future of the `temporary` £20 uplift on Universal credit designed just to see those in need through the pandemic but now regarded by many as a benefit as of right.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has cleared the Prime Minister of failing to declare the true cost of his holiday with his fiancée on the island of Mustique but has found five Members of Parliament, of whom I am one, guilty of `bringing the House into disrepute`. As my colleague Adam Holloway – another of the “Guilty Five” -  has wryly said “No good turn goes unpunished”. (The full details of this matter have been placed in the public domain for the enlightenment of those who wish to rely upon something rather more factual than the gutter tabloids for their information). The Chancellor of the Exchequer believes, as do many, that the time has come for people to stop working from home and to get back into their offices. If the backlog of work within Government offices and Departments and agencies, including particularly the DVLA and the Courts, is anything to go by that “rentree” cannot happen a moment too soon. What was once a necessity has now become a convenience. 

The Foreign Aid budget will be cut from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%. In spite of the best efforts of some of us the House voted by 373 to 298 to reduce the amount paid to support some of the poorest people in the World by a double cut based, of course, upon a smaller Gross National Income. And this hot on the heels of the Prime Minister`s exhortation at the G7 to spend more on the education of young women in developing countries.  That the Bill Gates Foundation is offering to make up some of the shortfall in the UK`s Aid budget ought to be a source of shame to those who understand the meaning of the word. 

Henry Dimbleby`s report on a National Food Strategy proposes measures to reduce to sub-lethal levels our consumption of sugar and salt, an idea kicked smartly into touch by a Prime Minister who clearly likes his additives. Small point, surely, in having a painstakingly produced thesis if you then wantonly ignore its findings but then we don`t want another `Nanny State` issue for the `Covid Recovery Group` to bleat about do we?  And while on the subject of reports the Boardman findings into the manner in which Lex Greensill found himself at the heart of Government seem to have found a convenient scapegoat in the form of the late Lord (Jeremy) Heywood. Easy to speak ill of the dead, of course, but Lady Heywood may not wish to let the matter rest while the true culprits go unchastised. 

And then there was “Freedom Day” on July 19th, the day upon which the Prime Minister embarrassingly had to participate in Question Time virtually from Chequers because his Health Secretary had carelessly exposed himself to Covid 19 and had caused his boss, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others to be `pinged` into isolation by the `Test and Trace ` system as a result. . And not to be outdone on the day after PMQs the Leader of the Opposition, whose name escapes me, was in pinged isolation as well. That, and the issue of `Vaccine Passports` will be the subject of most of what follows. 

The approach to `Freedom Day` has, to put it as kindly as possible, been chaotic. 

I have some sympathy with the PM`s view that “If not now, when”?  Clearly `Lockdown` cannot go on for ever and it is not unreasonable to say that with a majority of the adult population having had two vaccinations it is better to take the brakes off in what passes for midsummer than to wait until the Autumn. It is an unassailable fact that cases of infection, particularly among the young, have been rising alarmingly but while hospitalisation has also risen it has not, yet, reached overwhelming proportions of the kind that we experienced earlier in the year. The combination, therefore, of vaccines and immunity born of exposure to the disease may – and this is the Holy Grail that the scientists are clearly hoping for – lead to the `herd immunity` that will stifle the pandemic in the UK before the onset of winter with all its other attendant medical complications. 

The messaging, though, has been appalling. First it was okay to pack into football stadiums and to throw social distancing to the four winds but it was not okay to let the hospitality, entertainment and night-time industries get back to work. Then we took the brakes off on July 19th but in reality kept some of the brakes on, particularly in respect of Test-and-Trace and the requirement to self-isolate, until August 18th. We said that it was no longer necessary for people to wear face-masks, even in enclosed spaces and on public transport but we still `encouraged` people to take precautions. That contracted out the responsibility to authorities such as Metropolitan Mayors like Sadiq Khan and the next Leader of the Labour Party and current Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham to – rightly - seek to reimpose the restrictions at a local level. Those basic precautions should never have been abandoned in the first place. We allowed joyous crowds of young unvaccinated ravers to congregate in heaving nightclubs for the first time in the best part of eighteen months and then told them that they would need to have proof of vaccination before going clubbing in the Autumn. Where was the sense or consistency in that `policy`? 

Meanwhile the `pingdemic`, as it has been christened, has played havoc with staffing, not only of Downing Street but rather more importantly the entire supply chain is in danger of coming to a grinding halt.  Because of the spread of the disease amongst young working people an estimated 3.5 million weekly of mostly completely healthy potential employees have received messages from the Test-and-Trace system via the NHS App requiring them to self isolate. The result has been that supermarkets, public transport, the emergency services, hospitality and travel businesses and many other enterprises have found themselves significantly short of staff and in some cases forced to shut down completely. There is already, caused by the pandemic and by a Brexit that has denuded the UK of twenty five thousand HGV drivers that went home for Christmas and did not return, a desperate lack of qualified HGV drivers. That has been compounded, of course, by a further twenty-five thousand applicants queuing in the backlog waiting to take the HGV Driving test causing  a lack of drivers has meant empty shelves in the shops, a potential shortage of petrol and diesel at the pumps and, because the supermarkets are compelled to pay premium rates to stay open and have been poaching drivers from other sources, even a shortage of local dustcart drivers to collect domestic refuse.  

In the hospitality and leisure industries there are businesses having to wait until August 18th when for some wholly arbitrary reason pinged people will, it appears, no longer be required to self-isolate. That means that restaurants and bars and shops and seaside arcades on the `English Riviera` and a myriad of other small firms unable to open because of a lack of staff will lose half of a vital summer season while those self-isolated will, of course, lose at least a fortnight`s pay. In the meantime, some people are simply deleting the NHS App and the Test-and-Trace system has itself been overwhelmed because of the sheet volume of work generated by the sharp rise in infection amongst the unvaccinated young.  Key workers such as NHS staff, Carers, those employed in the provision of medicines, power, water, food and transport workers have all been relieved of the requirement to self-isolate if they have been double-vaccinated and given the ease of regular testing of the kind that has been deployed in the Houses of Parliament for many weeks it is hard to understand why so many people are required to take time off work at the expense of the recovery of the economy. Where is the `vaccination dividend` that we were promised?  

The vaccine is clearly not paying dividends when it comes to foreign travel.  If Freedom Day was chaotic then the “traffic light” travel scheme is a shambles. Nobody but nobody – certainly not the beleaguered travel and aviation industries and probably not even Downing Street - seems to know where from day to day we stand. People who were happily holidaying in Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, islands on the `green` list, suddenly found themselves switched to amber, facing quarantine and rip-off resting costs upon their return home. Malta rejected some passengers who had not had pre-flight tests and then had a change of heart and decided to admit them by which time flights has been missed and holidays ruined. Countries that have been deemed safe to visit by the UK Government are insisting upon isolation on arrival and while Spain and Greece are on the Amber, list with cases of infection at a rate almost as high as in the UK,  France, with a lower and falling infection rate has been placed in a newly created `Amber-plus` category making it well-nigh impossible for Ex-Pat UK citizens to come home to visit family or for UK residents to visit family or friends in France. Not only that but anyone traversing France from the rest of Europe by car in order to take the short sea crossing to Britain has also found themselves facing quarantine and costly PCR tests on arrival at Dover. And this is all because of an outbreak of the `Beta` (South African) mutation of Covid 19 on the island of Reunion, one of the` Dominions Outre Mers,` that is some five thousand miles away from Metropolitan France. That cat, hotly denied of course, was let out of the bag by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab. It looks as though a rookie Health Secretary, Sajid Javid who replaced Matt Hancock after his fall from grace, persuaded the Prime Minister to implement this ludicrous imposition without consulting the Transport Secretary or anyone else in the Cabinet. Just for once I have some sympathy with M. Macron`s not entirely synthetic outrage at the manner in which the facts have been misinterpreted. To compound the problem we have now agreed to allow travellers from the United States, without a reciprocal agreement, to fly into the UK and this largesse is extended to the EU.  Except for France which as the time of writing remains on Amber Plus, and hints that Greece and Spain may be about to be placed on a `watch list` which makes it impossible to book a holiday with any certainty that you will not face a massive bill upon your return.  Not surprisingly the aviation and travel sectors are beside themselves with worry and anger as they see their hopes of survival and recovery disappearing into a black hole of Johnsonian indecision, The Americans have adopted a simple procedure: if you have had two jabs and a negative pre-departure test before you fly back home you do not face quarantine. Why not in super-vaccinated Britain? 

I am wholly supportive of the concept of vaccine passports. I am aware that many on the libertarian right of the Conservative Party, including those who were philosophically opposed to Lockdown as an `infringement of personal liberty`, find the idea of having to produce evidence of vaccination as a requirement of entry into certain premises or a particular employment, as `identity cards by the back door` and a` denial of human rights`. I do not share that view. 

We hear a great deal about `rights` and a great deal less about responsibilities these days.  I know of no suggestion that anyone, other than those working in the NHS and care sectors, will be required to have a vaccination that they choose to refuse but it seems to me that others also have the `right` to know that those with whom they are sharing a football ground or a nightclub or even a shop or a restaurant have taken advantage of the best available protection against Covid 19. 

When I aired this view recently on a national radio station it was picked up and plagiarised out of context by a tabloid newspaper and as a result I received `hate mails. About eleven of them to be precise.  Setting aside the `if you stop me watching football I will kill you` kind of communication I was compared by one to `The kind of Nazi that forces people to have vaccinations that they do not want`.  I may be wrong but I was not aware that the victims of the vilest forms of Dr. Mengele`s Nazi experiments were given any choice in the matter but that apart in modern Britain every person has the right to choose not to be vaccinated.  

What they do not have is a `right` to  then impose the effects of their decision upon others, who may not wish to share their company. 

Those who choose to smoke are not permitted, by law, to do so in most public places and in restaurants and pubs. Nothing so draconian is proposed for those who refuse vaccination against Covid 19 and I can find no vestige of coercion in the idea that if a person chooses not to be vaccinated then there are certain other things that they will also have to forego. It is entirely a question of personal choice and the consequences that flow from that exercise of personal judgement.   

Nobody `has` to go to a football match, or a cinema, or a nightclub but if you do want to go then you have to buy a ticket and you have not got a ticket then you cannot gain entry. That is not a `right`.  It is a requirement of the establishment. So think of the `Vaccine Passport` as part of the admission ticket, get vaccinated, protect yourself and others and enjoy all of the benefits to society that that brings. 

I have two caveats: first, clearly there are those who for reasons of clinical vulnerability cannot receive vaccinations and an exemption has to be made for those relatively few people.  Second, a vaccine passport, if such a device is to be introduced, should be recognised internationally as well as domestically and must not be allowed to morph into an ID card on a long term basis. 

There is a case that can be made for a voluntary ID card as a facilitating document and indeed a long time ago I was a member of a Home Affairs Select Committee that made just such a recommendation but that is a separate issue. A vaccine passport has to be a short-term measure designed to address a specific need arising from the pandemic and that is all. An ID card of any kind is something that should properly be debated and scrutinised and supported by both Houses of Parliament before it sees the light of statutory day.  But with those two provisos I am personally comfortable with the idea that we should give to an overwhelmingly vaccinated majority the `right` to enjoy the best physical security that they can be offered. 

In other news Her Majesty The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the NHS in recognition of the courage and compassion of all its staff shown during the pandemic.  The proposed NHS pay award of 3% that has been suggested by the Pay Review Body falls far short of the double-figure increase that nurses and midwives were seeking but with all other public sector pay frozen is at least an improvement on the 1% that the Government originally offered. With an estimated NHS waiting list of 5.3 million patients the new head of the organisation, Amanda Pritchard, now appointed to succeed Sir Simon Stevens and formerly his Deputy, faces considerable challenges She becomes the first woman to hold the post since its creation in 1948. 

And Adam Peaty, winner of the 100 metres gold medal for breaststroke, has become the first Olympian to successfully defend that title. 

Ballswatch

 

The `Westernisation of Russia` is regarded as a `primary security threat`. Which is why only Neo-Soviet produced “Shampagneskaya” is allowed to be marketed as Champagne. All else, including Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and  Dom Perignon , are mere “sparkling wines”. Very droll. And very “Sham” but the irony of the name will no doubt be lost upon Vlad the Poisoner. 

The Mighty Amazon has failed in its challenge to prevent Robin Moxon, who has four fishmongers shops and a smokery in London, from using the word “Prime” in his description of his wares. “Prime Day Boat Fish” including super-fresh Turbot, Brill and Dover Sole, remain on sale. But watch out Greenwich. The Prime Meridian may be under threat.

Staycation inflation has hit the British Isles. Those many compelled to holiday at home are facing an increase of 35% for resorts in Yorkshire and Sussex. The West Country is sold out at often inflated prices and there are reports of a week in a Suffolk cottage going for £107,000 while a three-bedroomed property in Southwold is said to have fetched £15,000 per day. “Crikey”, as the Prime Minister might have said. Even properties in Sandwich at the time of the Open Golf tournament were not fetching those kinds of prices. 

From September the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road traffic will be re-defined to require British registered vehicles abroad to display `UK` rather than `GB` stickers to reflect the inclusion of post-Brexit Northern Ireland. As one whose chrome GB lettering is super-glued to the fibreglass bodywork of my car I am afraid that I shall have to stick, literally, to the status quo. 

In a `world first` in re-wilding the Aspinall Foundation with zoological establishments at Port Lympne and Howlett`s in East Kent, is planning to export a baker`s dozen of African elephants to Kenya. I don`t wish to be dog-in-the-bush about this but the phrase `coals to Newcastle` does spring to mind. 

Young Master Constable (7) has earned fame for his `portrait` of his grandmother`s feet and legs. Nana Constable is only 76 so will not remember when “Old John”, the lad`s ancestor, exhibited “The Haywain” in 1804. 

There are an estimated 300,000 of Great Britain`s sharply declining complement of hedgehogs slaughtered on our roads each year but the  Department for the Environment has spiked “Hedgehog Crossing” signs because there is `not enough evidence` to justify the case for them. Question: When did you last see a dead deer on the road?  I ask because there are plenty of “Deer Leaping Across” signs. The answer may lie in the fact that a deer might damage a car and its occupants whereas poor Mrs. Tiggywinkle just gets squashed. 

Bunny-hugging MPs to the rescue of rabbits. For far too long these furry little people have been treated as second-class citizens with no code of conduct for their care, no regulation of hutch sizes, no concern for their isolation and no ban on a diett of the carrots that are bad for them. Step forward the Rabbit Welfare Association and DEFRA who together will address the issue as the Sentencing Powers for Animal Cruelty Act comes into force. 

The Pandemic furlough and Brexit have combined to create staff shortages that the Home Office is reluctant to either acknowledge or address. As a result seaside hospitality businesses are unable to staff their premises and this Autumn it is highly likely that produce will lie rotting in the fields and on the trees again because the pickers from Europe that used to harvest them went home last Christmas and have not returned. 

Megan Windsor`s Children`s book “The Beach”, based loosely on her husband`s relationship with their son Archie, is reported to be placed at number 4201 in the Amazon Chart in the UK and 1932 in the Amazon Chart in the US. Not much Prime there. 

There has been no pre-Cop 26 international agreement to phase out the use of coal as a carbon fuel but Downing Street has come up with a useful climate saving suggestion as a stop-gap. Stop pre-rinsing dinner plates in hot water before putting them into the dishwasher. 

Mayor Boris`s “Brexit Jet”, the VIP Voyager Vespina redecorated at a cost of £900K with the addition of a Union Flag, has taken to the air just once in the past five months to participate in a fly-past over Athens, watched by Prince Charles,  to celebrate the bi-centenary of Greek Independence . 

Dr. Stephen Benn has become the Viscount Stansgate six decades after Anthony Wedgwood-Benn renounced the title to take a seat in the House of Commons. 

Former Commons Speaker Betty, now Baroness, Boothroyd was scathing about the performances of the leading protagonists in the 60th anniversary session of the first formal Prime Minister`s Question time.  The Prime Minister at the first session in 1961 was that class act Harold Macmillan.

Former Speaker John, not Lord, Bercow who once said that he would not draw his Commons pension until he reached retirement age is now cashing in his chips. At 58. 

The BBC`s Grand Inquisitor , Andrew Marr,  has opined that having too many journalists in parliament is dangerous. Messrs Johnson and Gove, two of the former hacks referred to, might muse that too many politicians within the BBC is equally unhealthy. 

And Yorkshire Parkin Cake is the latest victim to fall foul of the Woke Police. The delicacy is made from ginger and treacle which of course comes from sugar with all of its links to slavery you see. A pity because it goes well with a nice cup of Yorkshire tea. Straight from the colonial plantations. Oops! 

Valete 

Lyle Hutley (104) was called up and joined the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver in 1940. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force that was evacuated from Dunkirk and found time to get married to his wife, Ivy, before being sent to Africa. On arrival his ship was diverted on to Singapore and arrived in February 1942 just in time for the surrender of the British forces to the Japanese. He spent the rest of the war in Changi prison and is thought to have been the last surviving British soldier to have worked on the infamous bridge over the River Kwai.  

Donald Rumsfeld (88) was US Secretary of State for Defence in George W Bush`s White House and one of the driving forces behind the 2003 Iraq War. He began his political career under General Eisenhower and  served under President Richard Nixon in the 1960s. He was the US Ambassador to NATO before becoming, at 43, the United States` youngest Defence Secretary under President Gerald Ford. Widely regarded as one of the most ruthless men on the American political scene, the Cold War warrior was working in his office in the Pentagon when it was hit by one of the 9/11 hijacked airliners. While others fled for their safety Rumsfeld stayed to help the injured.  Senator John McCain described Rumsfeld as “one of the worst Secretaries of Defence in American history” and he will always be remembered for his 2002 answer to a journalist asking about Saddam Hussein`s non-existent (as it turned out) `weapons of mass destruction`.  “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say there we know that there are some things that we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns: the ones that we don`t know we don`t know – and it is that category that tends to be the difficult one” 

Hugh Clayton Lowther (72), The Eighth Earl of Lonsdale, was the Peer who threatened to sell a mountain that had been in his family`s ownership for 400 years in order to pay death duties.  The peak in question, Blencathra, near Keswick Cumbria in the Lake District and known as “Saddleback”,  was placed on the market for £1.4 million pounds but subsequently withdrawn. The Eighth Earl`s Father had been the founder and first President of the Automobile Association and it was he who donated the original `Lonsdale Belts` as boxing trophies in 1909.  The Eighth Earl himself had an estate but, unable to make it pay, took to long-distance lorry driving to earn a living. He is succeeded by his half-brother. 

Richard Donner (91) was the director behind the 1976 Gregory Peck/Lee Remick film “The Omen” and the Christopher Reeve “Superman “movie in 1976.  He also directed “Lethal Weapon” (1987) with Mel Gibson, “Maverick” (1994) with Jodie Foster and Conspiracy Theory” with Julia Roberts. 

Lady (Jane) Roberts (71) was the curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle and the first woman to become the Royal Librarian. She was instrumental in the extension of the Royal Gallery at Buckingham Palac. E and  was appointed a DCVO in 2012. 

Jovenal Moise (53) was the President of Haiti who was assassinated by a group of gunmen who broke into his home in Port au Prince. During his term in office he had to face the fallout of the 2010 earthquake that killed 200,000 people and the 2016 Hurricane Matthew.  He was sworn in as President in February 2017 and is believed to have been murdered by an `armed commando group` from Colombia.

Dilip Kumar (98) was “The Tragedy King of Bollywood” who as a glamorous Indian film star won eight Filmfare (Indian `Oscars`) Best Actor awards. He turned down the role of Sherif Ali in David Lean`s Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O`Toole and Omar Sharif) and after a string of hit films finally retired with “Qila” in 1998. 

Bobby McAlpine (89) was the chairman of his family`s construction business and a racecourse steward and breeder of racehorses. He retired from McAlpine`s in 1992 but maintained his highly active interests in horse racing. He was High Sheriff of Cheshire from 1994-1995. 

Gillian Sheen (92) is, to date, the only British athlete to have won a gold medal in fencing. The professional Dental Surgeon was, when she arrived in Melbourne for the 1956 Olympic Games. a seven-times national champion but regarded as not in serious contention for an Olympic medal. Her ultimate success in the individual foil was described at the time as “a victory for modern classical fencing and a setback for the new East European school”. She began her fencing career at the North Foreland School in Thanet in East Kent and having won schoolgirl championships went on to win University and British titles. After Melbourne and before her retirement from the sport and her marriage she won the British Empire and Commonwealth title. She was awarded her MBE for services to her sport in 2019. 

Sir Nicholas Goodison (87) was the Chairman of the London Stock Exchange at the time of the 1980s `Big Bang` reform of the City securities market. The head of the stockbroking company Quilter Goodison, he was elected as Chairman of the Stock Exchange in 1976 and the agreement that he reached in 1983 with the then Trade Secretary, Cecil Parkinson, led to the settlement of a Court case brought by the Office of Fair Trading and the radical changes of practice in October 1986. Goodison was knighted in 1982 and retired as Chairman in 1988. 

Commander Geoffrey Greet (101) was one of the last survivors of the `Laconia Incident` during which a converted British cruise vessel serving as a troopship was sunk by the German U-boat 156 off the coast of West Africa with some three thousand people including women and children and Italian prisoners of war on board. Having survived the ordeal and the war Geoffrey Greet was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1947 serving on aircraft carriers, minesweepers and frigates and before his retirement from the armed forces serving on the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. 

Joan le Mesurier (90) was the racy wife of the star of “Dad`s Army”, John le Mesurier. She enjoyed an affair, seemingly with her husband`s consent, with the Comedian Tony Hancock which only ended with Hancock`s suicide in Australia in 1968. She remained married to Le Mesurier until he also died in 1983 and saw out her days in the town that she had been brought up in, Ramsgate in Kent. 

Tom O`Connor (81) was the Liverpool-born comedian and game show host who first hit the limelight on Hughie Green`s talent show `Opportunity Knocks`.  The former maths teacher went on to host the ITV show “Name That Tune” and then his own “Tom O`Connor Show” for the BBC. 

Squadron Leader `Benny` Goodman (100) was one of the last two Lancaster bomber pilots who flew with the 617 `Dambuster` squadron on the raids on the German battleship Tirpitz and on the Arnsberg Viaduct carrying the 22,000lb `Grand Slam` bomb designed by Barnes Wallis. He was awarded the Legion d`Honneur in 2017. 

Lieutenant Basil Trott RN (101), a seaman gunner in 1939, is thought to be the last survivor of the Battle of the River Plate, the epic naval engagement in which Commodore Henry Harwood on board HMS Exeter led HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles against the German battleship the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. The battle, which took place between December 13th and December 17th 1939 ended when the three British cruisers forced the battleship into Montevideo harbour where her Commander, Captain Lansdorff, was given orders to scuttle her. 

Bruce Kirby (92) was the designer of the `car-top` racing dinghy, the Laser. More than 250,000 Lasers have been built and sold worldwide and since 1996 have been raced as a one-design class in the Olympic Games. Born in Ottawa Bruce Kirby was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2017. 

Baron Herman Von Richthofen (87) was the Great Nephew of `The Red Baron` Von Richthofen, the first world war German fighter ace. Hermann Von Richthofen was the west German and subsequently, following reunification, the German Ambassador to Britain between 1989 and 1993. He was in post in London when the Berlin Wall fell and was the Ambassador responsible for Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd`s visit to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin three days later. He was awarded an honorary GCVO in 1992. 

Adrian Metcalfe (79) was an Olympic, Commonwealth and European games medal-winning track athlete who became an ITV commentator, Sports Editor and one of the founders of the Eurosport TV Channel. He was an adviser for the International Olympic Committee and was actively engaged in plans for the London 2012 Olympics. 

And finally………. 

Flying at sixteen thousand feet Travis Ludlow from Berkshire, having just completed his A-level exams, has piloted his Cessna light aircraft for twenty-five thousand miles around the world in forty-four days to raise funds for UNICEF. 

No medals yet for this young lady but at 12 years old Sky Brown, a skateboarder, has become the youngest Olympian since Margery Hinton appeared in Amsterdam in 1928. 

Commander Vincent Owen, of HMS Defender, has been awarded the Honorary Defender of Ukraine Medal following his passage in international waters, through the Black Sea in waters that Putin`s nautical goons have sought unlawfully to claim as their own. 

And Dolly Parton (75) has presented her husband of fifty-five years, Carl Dean, with a photo of herself in a Playboy Bunny Girls costume on the occasion of his seventy-ninth birthday. She first appeared on the front cover of the now extinct magazine in 1978.